We felt weary from the relentless strain as our oldest son struggled through his last year of middle school. I knew that eighth grade would be challenging for most students but for our son who had learning disabilities, it was proving more than he could handle. As his mom, I was just as weary because as he suffered, so did I.
Never would I have imagined that “schooling” would be the hardest part of parenting him. Watching him struggle for so many years was more than my heart could handle at times. He was becoming despondent from the weight of it all and I was living in anxiety as I contemplated his future.
As eighth grade progressed, we almost withdrew him twice for the sake of homeschooling him. We felt conflicted though because we knew how his friends were the highlight of each school day. With each passing week, I began to fixate on how our son would make it through high school. As his parents, we had decided we would transfer him for his freshman year to the public school in hopes that their curriculum would offer more realistic options. I worried that he would fail miserably because of the absence of Christian community but I knew he just couldn’t last another year where he was.
One day as I was fretting my way through prayer, literally wringing my hands in angst over our son’s future, God brought my despair to a sudden end. Instead of me thinking-
What if he fails a grade? What if he is unable to graduate high school? What if he ends up in the same grade as his younger sister?, God impressed upon me that I should be thanking Him for His faithfulness thus far.
The Lord posed a series of questions to me that caught me off guard. Instead of me questioning the future of our son, I should be examining his past. God had me consider “thus far”-
Had he passed each grade? Were his grades more than adequate? Had he managed all those years with more success than I was giving credit?
Yes to all these and more. Thus far the Lord had helped us and I was being totally blind to that.
God confronted me on how I spent more time fretting over the future than rejoicing over the past. Immediately, 1 Samuel 7:12 came to mind,
“Then Samuel took a stone and set it between Mizpah and Shen, and named it Ebenezer, saying, ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us.’”
God had indeed brought our oldest son through that Christian school successfully. Was it difficult? Yes, but it was an act of faithfulness nonetheless. Our son had passed every grade. None of our fears had come true so why was I wasting time worrying about all the “what-ifs”? God had met each and every need when we reached out for His help.
That day I was convicted by all the thanksgiving I had failed to give the Lord. How many times had I read the story of the 10 Lepers healed by Jesus and now, I was one of those nine that didn’t even bother to thank Him for their miraculous provision.
“As He entered a village, ten leprous men who stood at a distance met him; and they raised their voices, saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’ When he saw them, he said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they were going, they were cleansed. Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at his feet, giving thanks to him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered and said, ‘Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine—where are they? Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner’” (Luke 17:12-18)?
At that moment, I repented of the sin of my ingratitude over what God had already done for our son. I began to counter all those moments of “what-if” as they entered my mind with the faithfulness Christ had already shown and would continue to give. If He had provided for us thus far, He certainly wouldn’t forsake us now.
It seemed that the more I thanked God for what He had done, the more hopeful I became over what He would do. A change began to take hold of me- I felt less like I needed to know what was going to happen or have the perceived “control” over our circumstances. Peace and assurance replaced fear over what lay ahead for our family.It seemed that the more I thanked God for what He had done, the more hopeful I became over what He would do. Click To Tweet
I didn’t know how life might change for our son in high school but I knew I had to leave that in God’s hands.
Fast forward to our son’s senior year in high school. That was the year when all three of our children were in high school together- our oldest was a senior, our daughter a junior and our youngest son was a freshman. One quarter, our oldest brought home a certificate for the honor roll while his two siblings did not. When he handed me the certificate, God immediately brought his eighth-grade year to mind with all of my fretting and angst.
I was brought to tears at the goodness of my Lord and Savior at that moment. He had been so patient with me as I worried over the future school issues our son may encounter. God knew that my worry was needless at best and sinful at worst. I learned that worry is feeling bad over what HASN’T happened. My sweet Savior didn’t want me wasting any more of my emotions like that when I could be celebrating all of the answers to prayer instead.
Were the high school years without trial? No, but I found a new weapon against the intimidation I felt from challenges.
As we encountered any given rough patch, I began to use thanksgiving as a weapon against the fear of the unknown. It proved to be a powerful antidote to the “what-ifs” that could pop into my mind at any moment. I took this passage in Philippians to heart and it became my new knee-jerk response to fear.
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
Whenever a problem arose, I would first thank Jesus for all of his help thus far, praising him for the love and faithfulness that surrounded us. I would then “present” the issue to him as I cast my cares upon his very capable shoulders. Because we were His, I fully expected His direction and provision. I no longer needed to know what to do about the future as much as I needed to look to Him for what was necessary for that moment.As we encountered any given rough patch, I began to use thanksgiving as a weapon against the fear of the unknown. Click To Tweet
What would happen next is important- I would resist the temptation to ponder the “what-ifs” that could become our worst nightmare. Instead, I would meditate on how All-Loving, All-Wise and All-Powerful our Lord is in regard to any threat facing us. I did this by incorporating a gratitude journal into my daily devotional time.
THE GRATITUDE JOURNAL
The key for me to live in peace required more than my thanksgiving, it necessitated a change in my thinking. This proved to be more than I could do on my own but I found a powerful practice that helped me accomplish this goal.
By writing down what God had done for us the day before, I was able to practically live out the next verses from the passage in Philippians.
“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:8-9).
As I wrote down what I had to be grateful for from the previous day, I not only began my devotional time with thanksgiving but my perspective gradually began to shift from what God had yet to do on our behalf to what he had already done for us. I saw a profound change take place inside as I focused my thoughts on what was good and right in our life. I felt less fearful over the future and more at peace regarding the present. My assurance soared as I encountered each new day.Whatever is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, good, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, DWELL ON THESE things! This is how we fight for our peace. Click To Tweet
I found myself going back to my gratitude journal even after my devotional time. If something good happened to me during the day, I wanted to record it. If God was teaching me something important that I really wanted to cement in my mind, I wrote it down in a special section at the top of the page or to the side. My gratitude journal became important for me to rejoice in what God was doing as well as the valuable lessons he was teaching.
I became more hopeful and joyful regarding our daily life and less anxious about what might be confronting us around the corner.
Even if I didn’t know what we would be encountering tomorrow, I was convinced that what was more important was that Jesus was waiting right along with it. Either he would get us through by His abundant grace or He would take us home. There were no other options if we were His and He was ours.
I felt such peace from this new approach to life. The stress left our family-life like never before and I felt calmer than I had in years.
Once I tasted the freedom God intended for those He has redeemed, I never wanted to go back to living in angst over what may happen in the future. The recognition that the unknown of our future rested safely in His loving hands made all the difference. By giving thanks and keeping a record of it, I was a changed person.
Jesus had certainly made all things new and it had finally happened to my perspective.
Be sure to check out this list of encouraging Bible verses from 27 Christians and why they have their favorites!